President Trump announced last Thursday in a rolling televised discussion at the White House, that he would introduce a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminium. The move has surprised trade policy makers across the globe as the International Monetary Fund labelled the move as potentially “damaging.”
However, one of the largest protests came from the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, who addressed a crowd in Hamburg on Friday night and labelled the move as “stupid.” Before moving into a lecture on the dangers of populism, Juncker retaliated to the President’s announcement by saying the EU will introduce tariffs on iconic American brands. Declaring that “we will need to play stupid too”, Juncker, displaying a distinct lack of diplomatic caution, announced a potential tariff on Levi Jeans, Harley Davidson Motorcycles and Bourbon.
Then came President Trump’s Saturday night tweet. Pointing to the significant trade imbalance as his motivating factor, the US President threatened a new tariff on the EU’s car imports.
If the E.U. wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on U.S. companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the U.S. They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there. Big trade imbalance!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 3 March 2018
In just one tweet, less than 280 characters, the President of the United States sent the EU into panic mode.
Clearly trying to adopt a more measured tone than the Commission President, the EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, spoke to the BBC and scaled back the rhetoric, where she stressed that the EU would have to follow a few further steps before making this move:
However, President Trump represents a new era in global diplomacy and it is therefore wiser to proceed with caution. For example, the British Prime Minister subsequently warned the US President against the tariffs by a constructive phone call. Of course countries and trading blocs should always be expected to stand up for themselves, but the reality is if Jean-Claude Juncker is advocating for traditional methods, then he should follow them.
We must ask the question, is Juncker right to lead to the EU in this time of global change? Instead of trying to work cohesively with the most powerful man in the world, Juncker merely brandished a stick and poked the bear. The result, an extremely dangerous trade war with one of the world’s biggest consumer markets. It’s time the EU stopped moving so obstinately towards its “European project” and considered the survival of its Member States. Should Juncker continue on this inflexible course, he risks de-railing the entire trading bloc.